Reconsider The R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R

Illustration for article titled Reconsider The R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Photo: Nissan

For some reason, the R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R has always fit into the category of JDM cars. I get it. It’s maybe the greatest car never to be sold in the United States.But it deserves to be reconsidered as yet more than that, because it is in the same category as the BMW M3, the Subaru WRX, the Mitsubishi Evo, as a legend of Group A.

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Every year, Jalopnik’s most Chosen members – well, just me this year – have brought you the very best of Group C and GT1 racing from the 1980s and 1990s. We even did a Group B rally theme once. But for some reason we’ve never covered arguable the most successful racing formula of all. It’s the awkwardly-titled Group A-smas, worthy of celebration.

Even I never really thought of the R32 GT-R as a Group A success story. It never raced in the same series as other homologation specials more associated with the formula. Group A’s legendary rally cars were made legends by their rivalries. The Lancia Delta Integrale went against the Toyota Celica GT-Four, the Subaru Impreza WRX against the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. The R32 GT-R doesn’t factor in.

Illustration for article titled Reconsider The R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Photo: Nissan

The story’s the same for Group A’s legendary touring cars. The BMW M3 was only made as a means of getting back at the Mercedes 190E Cosworth, and who knows if we’d even have V8 Audis if the company didn’t want to win a championship of its own. And in all of the DTM highlight videos on YouTube, and in all the press releases from BMW and Benz, there’s no R32 to be found.

Illustration for article titled Reconsider The R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Photo: Nissan

Nissan ran the R32 GT-R primarily on home territory, competing in the Japanese Touring Car Championship under Group A regulations. Once the R32 charged in, it took over. In 1990, it won the championship. In 1991, it won the championship. In 1992 and 1993, well, yes, the same story. It was competing against cars that we know from Europe, M3s and Sierra RS500s, but while any American can go out and buy an M3 and live part of its story, we’ve been denied R32s by the 25 Year Rule. It’s been kept away, in Gran Turismo, in Video Option DVDs, as part of a JDM story not a Group A one.

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(I will also say that the R32 GT-R had some Group N history as well. It won under the lower-homologated rules at times, including at the Nürburgring.)

Nissan at the 1991 Nürburgring 24 Hours. The R32 won that year.
Nissan at the 1991 Nürburgring 24 Hours. The R32 won that year.
Photo: Nissan
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Nowhere the R32's Group A clout clearer than in, perhaps, the defining moment of the GT-R story. It is the car making its way out of Japan and down to Australia and clobbered the rest of the Group A field down there, to the point getting booed in 1992:

That’s it! That’s the whole story! We should include the R32 GT-R as part of the history of homologation specials, just as we include it in our thoughts about JDM wonders and Bubble Era majesties. It’s not just a drift car, drag car, or tuner car in waiting. It transformed a relatively plain Skyline into a performance machine; it’s a touring car, and one of the greatest to ever do it.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

DISCUSSION

anscoflex-ii
Anscoflex-II

I’ve long thought it was kind of a shame that Nissan wasn’t able to develop a left hand drive version of the R32/3/4 Skyline. It’s pretty clear that even the RWD versions would’ve been competitive in touring car racing against the but since it wasn’t sold anywhere (did Nissan officially sell them in the UK? I don’t believe they were officially imported into mainland Europe at all but am prepared to be corrected) there wasn’t any real reason to take it racing in BTCC or DTM.

I mean, it’s easy to see a full race Skyline coupe or sedan lining up against the Sierra Cosworth and Merc Evo, etc. Instead they ran the Primera.